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6 ways to build a great mobile newsroom

A few tips for organizations to building a great mobile newsroom

Organizations are increasingly aware that newsrooms must be like the news media they are designed for, delivering great content.

Yet as the mobile revolution takes hold, it is no longer wise to think primarily about desktop users when designing a newsroom.

Mobile use is skyrocketing, and beginning this year, Google will move to mobile-first indexing when it ranks results, as opposed to the desktop-first it currently employs, says Jared Hoffmann digital content editor at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, whose organization uses a PressPage newsroom.

Jared Hoffmann, SEO Strategist, Digital Content Editor, Children's Mercy Hospital
Sixty percent of our website visitors are visiting on mobile devices, so we know that mobile is important.
Jared Hoffmann, SEO Strategist, Digital Content Editor, Children's Mercy Hospital

How then should organizations think about their newsrooms, given that reporters and stakeholders access them on the go from mobile phones? Here are a few tips:

1. Think about the mobile experience.

The current trend in developing newsroom websites is “responsive design” – that is, designing newsrooms which detect and adapt to the screen size of the user - thus creating a pleasant experience regardless of device.

Yet contrary to popular belief, responsive design does not mean fitting the entire newsroom site on the user’s screen. The information provided on a desktop view of your newsroom, such press release teasers, are unnecessary and hazardous to creating a positive mobile experience.

As a result, an important part of developing a responsive newsroom is deciding which information to prune for mobile users.

This is cumbersome to manage from a governance perspective, and it is difficult to keep key information consistent.

Nevertheless, nowadays you must think beyond responsive design to “mobile experience,” or architecting one’s website in a friendly way to get people the information they are seeking as conveniently as possible, Hoffman says.

Here’s why. A newsroom might still be responsive—scaling for smartphones—annoy mobile users with endless navigation and icons users must scroll past to find what they’re looking for.

“The tasks that someone might complete when they come to a given page are not necessarily the first things that you see,” Hoffman says.

Children’s Mercy is redesigning with a goal of anticipating what most people are looking for, and placing that information up top. Most of its patient families are looking to make an appointment, and to log in to the patient portal.

2. Make it sticky, not a pogo stick.

There’s an additional benefit to thinking about what your site users are searching for: It boosts search engine optimization, Hoffman says. “Pogo-sticking” is the term for when people Google up your site, click on it, can’t find what they need, and bounce back out to the search results page.

If people then go to elsewhere and spend more time there, Google begins to favor that other destination. Think, therefore, about giving your users what will keep them there.

“By making it easier for them,” Hoffman says, “we’re making it more competitive for Google to rank us in the long-term as well.”

3. Create great content.

It is no longer sufficient to dump text documents and a staid photo in press releases. Newsroom content must be more dynamic, and that includes mobile newsrooms.

At Nissan, the newsroom posts are not just text but also video and cinemagraphs, or photos with motion built in, such as the one at the top of a story headlined, “Nissan and DeNA unveil Easy Ride mobility service in Japan.”

Brad Nevin, Editor-in-chief Global Communications Website Platforms, Nissan Motor Corporation
Let’s not just put up Word docs and pictures. How can we make our stories rich and colorful? We use video. We use cinemagraphs. We use sound files. We use social media video. We use the Instagram series of images.
Brad Nevin, Editor-in-chief Global Communications Website Platforms, Nissan Motor Corporation

Marketing can be a source of imagery content such as photos or videos that are useful to communicators at Nissan. The challenge, Nevin says, is not looking like an ad.

“We think of it as a real home run when a third-party [such as an auto magazine] uses these,” he says.

4. Don’t overdo the bells and whistles.

Google prefers sites that download more quickly. When designing a page in your newsroom, don’t use a 13-megabyte image where a smaller one will work, Hoffman says. It’s also possible to have too many outbound links, potentially confusing visitors.

In producing a page, Hoffman says, always ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the value we’re delivering in this page?
  • What do we expect the user needs?
  • What do we want them to accomplish?

“All of your content should architect around those very specific goals, and then nothing else,” he says. “Don’t be tempted to throw in too many extra things in case somebody needs it. Start with the core things you’re delivering and make sure that is displayed in a prominent way.”

5. Create an app.

Because mobile devices use public software platforms, anybody can create an application to use for marketing and public relations purposes, says marketing strategist David Meerman Scott. He has an app that includes blog posts, his Twitter feed and videos, and they link to his online bookstore on Amazon.

Reporters are active on mobiles, so Scott urges those in public relations, analyst relations and investor relations to create apps that reach their constituents. 

David Meerman Scott, Marketing Strategist
The online newsroom is evolving, and organizations should design content-rich online media rooms filled with blog posts, videos, podcasts, e-books, press releases and background information.
David Meerman Scott, Marketing Strategist

Scott adds, “When a reporter or analyst has an application for the company, or music artist, or nonprofit she covers on her mobile, then she can easily check what’s going on, as well as generate alerts for things like press releases—all on her device of choice.”

6. Survey or hold focus groups.

Not every news media outlet wants information dished out in the same way, says Whitney Drake, manager of the story bureau and analytics team at General Motors. That’s why GM offers a variety of content to serve the needs of various reporters.

For starters, ensure that your media contacts are easily located. “In terms of contacts, the ability to click on a phone number and dial out is important,” Drake says.

Surveys and focus groups can provide valuable information about what reporters need. The GM newsroom offers picture and video galleries that reporters can pull from. Though it wouldn’t be easy to drag in a reporter from many newspapers and magazines, GM has other experienced journalists it can consult.

Whitney Drake, Story Bureau & Analytics, General Motors
In the auto industry, we are very fortunate that we have a lot of dedicated auto writers. We can leverage them, talk to them, or actually bring them in.
Whitney Drake, Story Bureau & Analytics, General Motors
This revised article has been published before on on January 19, 2018.
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